Halfway There

I hope the little voice inside your head started belting Bon Jovi, because mine just did.

One semester down, one to go!

January was probably the most disjointed month yet. I went from Christmas break to more class with the second round of prelims to final exams to a week of break (an actual break this time because I didn’t have to study for anything) but through all of this I’ve been applying to every internship under the sun. Although my schedule resulted in 7 exams in two weeks (prelims and finals), it gave me one week off before the beginning of the next semester. Had I been unlucky enough I could’ve had one or more final exams on Saturday and new classes starting today.

Instead, I spent my glorious 9 days back in England to visit my best friend (and roommate for the past two years) Celine because she’s studying abroad at Oxford this semester (she’s so smarticle!!). After two years of sleeping in a bed just 3 feet away from hers it feels a little empty. I’m absolutely not complaining about having my own room but I do miss having someone to bounce ideas off of, complain about homework with, and talk about each other’s day with. And I especially miss hearing random snippets of singing every so often.

So I slept on her and her new roomate’s narrow couch for four nights, only to figure out on the last day that it was actually a pull-out bed and then end up going to bed so late that we were too tired to even figure out how to pull it out. It was great fun hanging out with her friends, attending their slightly fancier Friday night Hall (which is just dinner but people serve you), going to ents (a party thrown by the college every other Friday night), and attempting to fill in all the gaps from the past seven months apart. Then this weekend we gallivanted around London which included Borough Market, a temporary outdoor book market, the Columbia Flower Market, an 18th century silk-weavers home/museum, and a lot of backtracking on the tube.

Now I’m back in siesta land starting a new semester and whaddaya know? Cornell STILL hasn’t told me which (if any) of the five classes I inquired about have been approved or not. Even though I started the process in November. Because God forbid I take an actual class in Spanish (that’s not just Spanish language) while I’m living in Spain for a year. And because my Spanish language class schedule, work schedule, and any potential travel plans all hinge on whatever Cornell tells me, all I can do is sit here, twiddle my thumbs, and hope everything somehow falls into place. Oh and I’m missing an essential prerequisite class for half of the electives that I was planning on taking senior year and it’s not offered here in the Spring and the professor of said electives has stopped answering my emails. Thanks Cornell. In short, academically, this semester is off to a fantastic start.

In other news, I am currently at the 5.5 month mark (out of 10) and I’ve been gradually coming to the realization that the two semesters that sounded like a lifetime when I signed away my junior year at Cornell are starting to close in on the end. I’m sure it sounds silly because I still have over 4 months left, but ask anyone who has studied abroad for a semester and they will tell you that, time-wise, was nothing. Going into this I already knew that two wouldn’t feel like much longer. It’s already bittersweet because when the New Year came I realized that this year I’ll get to see all my friends and family again, but then I also realized that I have to pre-enroll for Cornell classes this semester and it felt like someone dropped a cinder block on my intestines. Looking back at last semester and knowing that I have to do it all over again is partly overwhelming and partly invigorating. You just can’t have it all. However, I am still incredibly excited for this semester because I can spend a lot less time “figuring it out” and much more time enjoying it. And to top it all off, I still have no idea what I’ll end up doing this summer so I don’t have a plane ticket home yet either, and not knowing is also reason for some excitement. So really I could just stay here forever. Just have to wait and see 😉

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¡Sigue, sigue!

Story time! So I decided to go for a run down to the beach one morning a few days shy of the winter solstice. When I got there I started to watch the sunrise and ended up sitting there for a solid 30 minutes. At one point a friendly older gentleman wandered past me and then came back around a few minutes later and went to take a picture of the sunrise. Thinking I was in his way, I got up to move, but he said “no, sigue sigue!” After he took a few shots he came over and showed me the potos. I thought he was just being friendly, but to my surprise he was showing me pictures of me! He said he was a photographer for Eltomavistas Santander and asked me if he could potentially post the photos on their facebook page and if I had an email address that he could send them to. I happily obliged and thanked him profusely for the striking photos.

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One of the negative side effects of being a Cornellian is that I feel like I always need to be doing something productive (because at Cornell there’s always something). Since coming to Spain I’ve been working on getting out of that mindset by taking a few minutes every so often to do absolutely nothing except enjoy being exactly where I am. I have to constantly remind myself of this so I’m really happy that the lovely gentleman captured one of those moments so beautifully.

Not long before Christmas I discovered that my niña, my dear mini-me, has never ever decorated a gingerbread house before! So I figured there was no better way to spend our last day before Christmas break. This proved to be rather difficult though because Spain doesn’t seem to have Gingerbread house kits, I didn’t have any molasses (nor the time, I must add) to make gingerbread from scratch, and Spain doesn’t have graham crackers either (one of the American things I miss most). So I picked up a box of Neapolitanas (cinnamon cracker/cookie things that are the closest we have to graham crackers) and Lacositas (essentially the Spanish brand of M&M’s).

Then all we needed was the icing. Easy, right? I wish. Apparently I picked a very unoriginal recipe for gingerbread house icing that required tons of whipping to reach the necessary consistency and of course that day we happened to be unable to find the whisk attachments for the mixer. So we ended up painting the glue and praying that it dry fast enough. We had moderate success for a bit, but the more we put things together, the more it began to fall apart. At one point we had all four corners assembled, ready to be put together, and by then end we just had an icing-drenched heap of cinnamon deliciousness.

Once we knew the construction project was scrapped she got really into messing around with the food coloring and icing. Like REALLY into it. So much so that by then end she had red hands, I had icing on my shoes, and Thumper (their super fluffy bunny) had streaks of grayish-purple icing in his fur (he was not happy).

The event will probably haunt me for the rest of my Civil Engineering career, but I will always remember how much we laughed, our attempt to clean the rabbit, and eating a pile of Neapolitanas and Lacositas.

Spain has a weird schedule and because the first semester didn’t start until the last week of September, we had classes up to Dec 22nd, a two week break for Christmas, New Year, and Three Kings Day, another week plus two days of classes, and then 2.5 weeks of exams before the second semester starts the following Monday. In other words, the first semester ends Feb 3rd and the second begins on Feb 6th. I don’t think it’s a great system.

Anyway, since we only had a two week break and I still had to do homework and study over the break and transatlantic flights are expensive, it wasn’t feasible to go all the way home to Florida. So I stayed with my aunt and uncle who live in England!

For one of my Spanish classes our assignment over break was to write an essay about our Christmas away from home, and, since I think it just about sums it all up pretty well, I’m just gonna leave it here (translated from Spanish so bear with me):

“You know those moments in which you wish the whole world would simply stop? On Christmas morning my aunt, uncle, older cousin, and I promised ourselves that we would each open one present and then go eat breakfast before opening the rest. Approximately twenty minutes later we found ourselves sitting on the sofas (settees, if we’re going with the British translation) amongst a sea of wrapping paper, still without breakfast, and, when we realized this, we all looked at each other and started laughing. We sat for a little while longer, still in our pajamas and robes surrounded by the mess, sipping our coffee and tea and chatting. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to hit the pause button and stay there.

These past two weeks have been incredible because, like during each of my travels, I’ve gotten to know a (relatively) new culture y experienced many of things I’d never encountered before. It was an adventure for sure, but this time instead of staying in a hostel in a huge city, I stayed in a little house in Northampton about an hour north of London. I’ve been told to “make the most” of my time abroad and to visit as many places as I possibly can, but in my opinion those two things are not always synonymous. Instead of tiring myself out each day running from one place to another on sketchy public transport, I learned how to bake bread pudding, we all played makeshift minigolf in the living room, I befriended two lovely cats, my uncle gave me a tour of his woodworking/furniture factory, we visited Cambridge, we went to a ballet (so fancy), my cousin and his fiancée gave me a grand private tour of London, and I taught my aunt how to make french toast. It was fantastic.

After all, there’s no better way to get to know the culture than to live with the locals, right? For one thing I was never very interested in coffee and I could never bring myself to really enjoy tea, but somehow within two days of arriving I was drinking tea or coffee once or twice a day. They’ve converted me. It’s contagious I swear. Additionally, I am now an expert on every type of pudding in existence. In the U.S. pudding is a dessert and normally chocolate or vanilla flavored, but in England pudding could mean so many different things. There’s Yorkshire pudding (a savory pastry), white pudding (spiced sausage), black pudding (blood sausage *gag*), bread and butter pudding (a dessert made of bread, milk, and eggs), and christmas pudding (a dark fruit cake), to mention a few.

This Christmas has been one of the best because even though I haven’t been able to be with my immediate family, I’ve had the privilege to experience a Christmas filled with new traditions and loved ones whom I hadn’t seen in a decade. No amount of traveling could replace that.”

So if you hadn’t already guessed, I really really did not want to leave at the end. But now I’m back in the “real world” of school, studying, and exams. And speaking of not studying for exams… If you’re just as intrigued about this new world of puddings just as much as I am, there’s an entire wikipedia page dedicated to it. Learn way more than you ever needed to know about the versatile deliciousness here. That’s what I’ll be doing until exams are over! 🙂